By now, you know my frustration with radio content.  Even Talk 910AM no longer has shows to listen to, except for the morning Frosty show.  Some think he’s boring, and he has put on some boring shows, but he’s all that’s left for us now except for online podcasts such as radiolab.org or thisamericanlife.org.

So, I’ll share what I enjoyed hearing this past week when NOT listening to Talk 910AM, except for Frosty.

I heard this following podcast during the livestream of This American Life.  It’s about radio.  It’s an old broadcast from 1998 so there’s no lamenting about the current mess of the radio industry.  There are interesting stories for anyone who used to love listening to the radio.  Here’s the link:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/100/radio

Here’s the recap of it:

For the 100th episode of This American Life, a radio show about the pleasures of radio. About what makes radio so great … and what makes it so terrible.

Act One of this podcast reminds me of an AM radio station I used to hear when I was still young enough to be in grade school.

Before the internet, my window to the world was nighttime AM radio waves. After dark, I heard things on my shiny, black transistor radio unlike anything played on my small town station.

In the deep chill of winter, in the silence of 1:00am, I’d turn on my transistor, hold it against my ear, and hear things that raised the hair on the back of my neck.  It came from halfway across the country.   Every night I searched like an addict for the same station. The dial had to be just right, exactly a hair off from the number on the tuner, to hear those call letters WHAM. That station was like the exploding text on the Batman tv series. POW! KABOOM! I mean, this stuff was wild. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. You’re gonna burn! burn! burn!

Imagine hearing the full version of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy With The Devil’ for the first time while alone in the dark, when seemingly not another soul was awake.

I was intrigued.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  I was a musical deviant and I wasn’t yet thirteen.  I told no one. This was personal, between me and my radio.

In those young years of listening to my transistor radio, I didn’t get any real sleep except during long weekend drives of family outings, when my father had control of the car radio – tuned to Lawrence Welk’s sound of champagne bubbles or Engelbert Humperdinck.

And I did sleep in the early evenings, until, as if an alarm had gone off, I awoke for the beginning of Steve Salmon’s show. He was my favorite WHAM disc jockey. I laughed into my pillow at Steve Salmon’s commentary and it was thrilling to hear music that wasn’t even played yet where I lived. Life was good.

One night, Steve signed on to tell his listening audience a friend of his had given him a record and he was going to play it “right now”.

“My friend said I have to hear this,” Steve said, “hmmm, Monkey Spanner Version No. 2.”

I heard the needle drop into the groove and after a scratchy moment the song began to play. It was all instrumental, with an upbeat sound. It was the type of song that gets stuck in your head for days.

 

(Here’s the YouTube link to Monkey Spanner Version No. 1 and Monkey Spanner Version No. 2)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hO8-sPbsXaw

As the song played, Steve told us, “Oh my God! I LOVE this song!  I have to listen again.”

The rhythm rolled for another two minutes or more.

I smiled. I’d never heard any disc jockey play the same record two times in a row.

“This is officially my favorite song!” Steve shouted and the song began again.

“Monkey Spanner Version No. 2!” He yelled and played it again.

“I can’t stop playing this. Let’s hear it again!”

And he did. Again and again and again.

For over thirty minutes the song played accompanied by occasional shouts in the background, “I love it!”.

I was upright in bed, looking around, eyes wide, bursting to tell someone about what was happening on radio station WHAM in New York at one-thirty in the morning. I wanted to clap my hands in pure joy. Every time the song started I squealed with glee and hugged my pillow. Or pressed my hand over my mouth. Would he dare do this all night?

After nearly an hour of continuous play, there were sounds of knocking on a door. Steve began the song again. We listeners heard footsteps and the creak of a door opening.

“Stop playing that song!” a guy’s voice yelled and a door slammed.

The song continued.  Steve’s hushed voice told us, “They want me to stop but I have to hear it again.  I will never stop playing it!  Never!”

The song started again and we heard violent knocks on the door. Steve’s voice barely whispered to us, “They are trying to make me stop playing this song but don’t worry, I locked the door.”

As Monkey Spanner Version No. 2 played on, the background sounds grew louder until we heard crashing and the unmistakable sound of a foot kicking the door. Steve’s voice was frantic, “They’re breaking down the door. I will never stop playing…”

Muffled voices of men filled the airwaves along with the song, and noises of a scuffle. I pressed my transistor radio closer against my ear. The batteries were dying.

The high-pitched screech of a needle scraped across record grooves, setting my teeth on edge. And then a loud crack. The sound of a record being smashed against a hard surface.

For the first time on WHAM, there was silence.

I stood, glancing wildly around my darkened room, transistor radio against my ear – listening to silence.

I shook it once to make sure it was still working. Hoping to jiggle the batteries into action.

Then I froze. A deep voice, trained to enunciate, told us his name and that he was our new host. That Steve Salmon was no longer with the station. He played something. Who knows what it was. The Fortunes, ‘Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again’, or something similar.  It wasn’t Monkey Spanner Version No. 2.

I crept back into bed, placed the radio on my pillow, pulled the covers to my chin and closed my eyes. I was tired, but how could I sleep? My thoughts spun over and over again, like that darn record had.

My eyes flew open.  I heard his voice. Steve’s voice. He whispered that he’d sneaked back in when the new guy went for a bathroom break.  He had another copy of Monkey Spanner Version No. 2. Sure enough, that crazy, now familiar song started to play.

I sat up and punched my fists in the air. He’d done it! My hand went to my heart. Steve was back and, by God, he’d done it.

The needle scratched and a different song began. Steve’s voice growing softer and softer into the background, repeated, “But, but I have to hear my song!”

And then he was gone.

I’d tried finding that station after that night, to see if Steve was back. But I was never able to locate it again. I’m sure I was just a hair off from the number on the tuner but I never managed to get it just right. Or maybe I just didn’t recognize the voice of the new guy that sounded like all the other voices out there.

I haven’t traveled the nighttime airwaves for decades. How could I? I’d never find anything to compare with the guilty pleasure of those early days listening to Steve Salmon on WHAM radio.

Do you have any radio stories?  Share them!

Now to get back on track with more podcasts that might interest you.  I heard another good podcast on the livestream of This American Life.  It’s all about love.  The problem is, I can’t find it.  I don’t have the time to go through and read the recaps of all of the shows that include the search term ‘love’ so, instead, I’ll give you a link to the results.  You want to go looking for love?  Maybe you’ll find it:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/search?keys=love

 

Another podcast I read about in one of the gossipy columns of sfgate.  Joan Rivers produces a web show ‘In Bed With Joan’.  She talks to celebrities (I’m unfamiliar with many of the names).  I watched the one with Jason Biggs and listened to the Drunken Phone Calls.  As you’d expect with Joan, there is profanity so be careful if you listen at work:

 http://inbedwithjoan.com/

 

How could I leave without a link to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown?

 

Here’s the link to YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCTaxGhRC5M

And, here’s what Wiki says about him:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crazy_World_Of_Arthur_Brown

 

As well, how could I leave a link to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and not include a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins video?

 

Here’s the link to YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orNpH6iyokI

And, what Wiki says about him:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screaming_Jay_Hawkins

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

 

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